In their final outing before Western State Conference play begins, the Pirates' men's basketball team dropped a 91-85 decision to visiting College of the Canyons Thursday night at the Athletic Event Center. Isaac Ramirez scored 20 points on the night, making six 3-pointers, to lead the Pirates (12-7) who came back from a 53-40 deficit at halftime to take a lead in the second half before ultimately falling to the Cougars.
The Pirates got off to a slow start, falling behind 8-0 before Ramirez hit the first of his six 3-pointers to break the ice. Terrell Handy-Johnson's jumper form a John Williams assist cut the deficit to 8-5 with 15:58 remaining in the first half, but CoC responded with an 11-1 run over the next three minutes to take a 19-6 advantage. Jacob Alonzo hit a triple and Isiah Reyes scored on a drive, but VC wa playing from behind. Try as they might, the Pirates made little headway against the Cougars, who extended the advantage to as many as 19 points at the 5:58 mark of the half.
At that point, the Pirates began their comeback with a pair of treys from Williams and Ramirez sandwiched around a Cougar bucket. Ruff then made a lay-up and followed with two free throws and another deuce and the Pirates had pulled to within 41-32 with a 12-2 run over two minutes of play. The Pirates went into halftime trailing 53-40.
VC continued their comeback as the second half began. They started with an8-2 run over the first 2:29, with a pair of scores from Williams book-ended around two buckets from Ruff. Darrell Handy-Johnson responded to a CoC field goal with two more scores, the former a free throw and the latter on a dunk on which he was fouled and completed the 3-point play to cut the deficit to 52-47. Ramirez connected from downtown to make the score 62-59 at the 13:09 mark, and Williams followed with a lay-up. Alonzo capped the comeback with a steal and easy basket to put the Pirates ahead 63-62. After a timeout, Taylor Sturgeon hit from range to extend the advantage to four points with 11:51 remaining.
Ventura's biggest lead was five points, 72-67, on an Alonzo 3-pointer at the 9:55 mark before Canyons began to stop the bleeding. VC held a 74-73 edge with 8:10 on the clock, but a Cougar three and two gave them the lead for good. Ventura trailed by as many as 10 points down the stretch, 86-76, with 3:02 remaining, and could not get closer than three points in the final minute, ultimately falling 91-85.
Williams totaled 18 points with a game-high eight rebounds and Ruff finished with 17 points, seven boards and a pair of blocked shots. Alonzo was the fourth Pirate in double figures with 14 points to go along with eight assists.
VC will begin WSC North Division play on Saturday Jan. 13 at home against Allan Hancock. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 pm following the VC-AHC women's game at 5:00 pm at the Athletic Event Center.